HUDDERSFIELD author Joanne Harris is one of a group of British authors behind a letter urging Tesco to “exercise restraint” in a libel case against a Thai business leader.
Harris, who wrote Chocolat, joins others including Nick Hornby and Mark Haddon among the writers who signed the letter in The Times condemning the supermarket giant for prosecuting Jit Siratranont.
The legal action follows a speech by Mr Jit, the vice-general secretary of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and a former MP, criticising Tesco’s expansion at the expense of small retailers.
The authors’ letter is part of a protest organised by English PEN, a campaign group for freedom of expression.
The letter reads: “We are writing to urge Tesco to exercise restraint over libel actions that we understand to have been recently launched by its subsidiary Tesco Lotus in Thailand.
“The claims have been brought against three critics of Tesco Lotus. One of these critics, Jit Siratranont, faces two years in jail accused of criminal defamation, and a civil damages claim of 1.1 billion baht (£16.6 million).
“While we accept the need for Tesco and other corporations to protect their reputation, we are concerned by this disproportionate response.”
Tesco Lotus, which is 99% owned by Tesco, is also pursuing a civil action for £1.6 million against Kamol Kamoltrakul, a freelance journalist who criticised the supermarket. A second journalist, Nongnart Harnvi-lai, is being sued after concluding an article with the words: “Ha, Tesco Lotus doesn’t love Thais.”
Tesco said all three men had carried out a “sustained campaign, over months if not years”.
A Tesco spokesman said: “It is very regrettable that we have had to take legal action in Thailand.
“We had hoped that the individuals concerned would apologise for the false and highly damaging allegations they had made about our business over a sustained period of time but despite numerous attempts to get them to set the record straight, this has not happened.”